December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve 2007 Thanksgiving

Photo: Aiko lights her New Year Candle (Fukuoka, Japan 2004)

(New Year Candlelight Ceremony- part 2 of 3)

Before the New Year, here's a recounting of what I'm thankful to have done or learned in the year since arriving in the beautiful mountainous central prefecture of Nagano. The links are to posts from the past eight months.

Communicating with you...

Over the years I published at least a hundred newsletters about my adventures and ministries-- in Mexico, five years in India, and then the U.S. where, eleven years ago, I started emailing newsletters, as we headed first to China, and then Japan.

With my ever expanding band of children and grandchildren and friends now on five continents -- all with varying degrees and angles of interest-- I've found it difficult to say all I wanted to some, without boring the rest.

Blogging has helped. I can now post whatever happens, interests me or I care to share for the interest or benefit of friends or family-- and they can view or read what interests them. Now I spend less time agonizing over what to leave out-- leaving more time to—communicate!

And I've really enjoyed the increased personal e-mails, photos, calls and web-cam meetings we've had this year- quality person to person communication-- Thanks for calling and writing!

...and Fun with Friends

This year, usually with Andrew-- and often his friend Leina, who is also ten years-old-- I've found time to enjoy mountain-climbing, hiking, bike rides in the countryside, my first trip to Tokyo, and taking many photos. And, since we missed our (sniff) Fukuoka friends from the southern island of Kyushu-- Andrew and I hitchhiked to visit them in August.


I've made progress this year in learning to focus on priorities – meaning not just being lead by what I find in front of my nose each morning-- like this quotation that I adapted and adopted for myself:

'Get up each morning and set your heart-- not on what you have to accomplish in your own energies-- but set your heart on eternity, and nothing else will matter-- and nothing will be able to defeat you.'
...and Prayer

When I think of all I want to do myself and see done for others-- and remember to measure the task and my own strength against the power of heaven-- then I think of prayer.

I've found a new, distinct focus for prayer in my life. Rather than an 'add-on' to my others activities, it's becoming a major part of my life in its own right-- and the more I pray, the more I want to pray.

And there is so my to pray for-- from my newest grandchildren-- Izumi in Hungary and Kevin in California-- to the 'gettin' grow'd up' ones in Texas and Zambia. For my mom and dad, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews-- and you!

It's no wonder grandparents are often known for their prayers-- they finally realize the limits of their human resources and begin to lean on the divine.

December 22, 2007

Lumangwe Falls in Zambia

My daughter, Amy-- in Zambia with her husband and six children-- sent me this note. They live in in a remote-- and beautiful-- area and she had an opportunity to enjoy it that I want to pass on to you.

(from Amy) I wasn't looking forward to my birthday at first, but then I was invited to go with some friends-- who are in Zambia as volunteers-- to see two of the amazing waterfalls in our area.

The following day two of the same girls came over and cooked me an Indian dinner while my kids baked me a chocolate cake with orange butter frosting.

The waterfalls are about 2 1/2 hours away from us-- the last hour is a dirt road. At one point we hit some wet mud and slid out of control for a bit before the driver was able to pull us out of it. Very scary! We also hit some large potholes and, since I was in the back of the four-wheel drive, I hit the roof a of couple times. Definitely a new experience-- since I am so short, my head rarely hits anything.

(If you want to see a photo and read the details of where she is about to tell us about, you can look here:

The falls were absolutely breathtaking. It really puts life and its problems in perspective. Like I said, I hadn't been looking forward to this birthday, not because of a number or anything-- I think it was more that I was just worn out and needed some time to myself and my brain latched on my birthday.

When I thought there was nothing to do for my birthday, I got a bit depressed-- but then the falls trip opened up. Standing there looking at the vastness of the waterfall, being drenched by the mist, it was all so awe-inspiring and reminded me that the same One who made these incredible sights was the One who was looking after every detail of my life. Who was I to grumble, worry, or get worked up?

I am amazed that more people don't visit the falls up here but the roads aren't paved for the last hour and there really aren't facilities around it to make staying here a possibility. Such a shame. On the other hand, it was so nice looking at a marvel of nature not surrounded by tourists and signs absolving whomever of any liability-- no gift shops, etc. I wish the whole world knew about these falls and, at the same time, I wish I could keep them all to myself.

There are two falls close to each other. We went to the first one and after looking at it from the top we climbed down the gully to the bottom of the falls so we could swim. I hadn't brought a swimming suit since I rarely go swimming-- preferring to read at the water's edge. But since this was a big day for me I decided to go for it all the way and swam in some of my clothes.

My kids were horrified when I got home. First of all, they were disappointed that they missed out on seeing me in the water because they are always begging me to swim and second, because they couldn't believe I swam in anything but a regulation swim suit.

After swimming for a few minutes we drove down to the second waterfall. In order to see this one we had to follow an overgrown path. I use the word 'path' in the loosest of terms-- We had to push our way between tall grass and thorny vines, climb over and under fallen tree trunks, and navigate slippery slopes. A couple of times we couldn't tell where the path was and had to guess.

Then, all of a sudden the path opened up and we were standing on this bluff looking at this amazing waterfall. The mist was blowing over us and the water was rushing down. It felt like perhaps we were the first ones ever to see this sight.

I got quite the workout that day-- climbing down and back up the first gully and then navigating the second path. As I was working my way back to the vehicle I was thinking how the memories of this day would last me a lifetime and my muscles would remember it for at least a week.

Thank you for the birthday greetings! It made me feel so loved to open my e-mail and see them there.


You can see more of Amy's family's work or write her at these addresses:

December 19, 2007

One of My Last Christmases

I just received an update from friends in Fukuoka, Japan concerning a place that we visited each Christmas to share some warmth and cheer

(that's Naomi-- lower left-- and Erica-- lower right in 2005).

"Every Christmas, members of our Family International community visit a nearby retirement home. This year, after dancing and singing, we sculpted balloons to the delight of many of the residents.

One of them, a fireman who had only recently moved to the retirement home after his wife had passed away, was particularly interested in our work and projects.

“I am so happy to see you children,” he said with tears in his eyes, “because I haven’t seen my own grandchildren in a long time. You remind me of them.”

He reached out and gave each of the children a big, warm hug.

“Thank you for coming today. You have made my Christmas very happy. I’m old now, and probably won’t live much longer, but I am glad to have spent one of my last Christmases with you.”

He continued. “Please don’t stop sharing what you have with other people. People need love and warmth at Christmas, and you are providing that. I admire you so much.”

Please pray for them and for us as we visit dozens of similar centers here, sharing love and the message of Christmas. Thank you!-- and thanks, Olivia-- on the right in this photo-- for this story.

December 14, 2007

Check Out These Great Christmas Resources

Are you looking for some beautiful free Christmas MP3s? -- some stories for children? Poems? Here's a link to fun page to explore with these and more. There are dozens of free Christmas E-cards too.

If you follow the 'TRACTS' link at the top of the main page, you'll see some of the small messages that, each Christmas, I love to give out to people that I meet... you can read 'em-- print 'em out-- or pass 'em out!

I've been wearing a 'Santa' hat when traveling on the train-- brings smiles to the faces of the normally highly reserved Japanese-- making it easier to offer a meaningful Christmas tract.

December 11, 2007

Our Christmas in Japan

Our team here in Nagano-- in the Japanese Alps-- is giving at least a couple dozen Christmas shows in shopping centers, nursing homes this month-- as we do each year. We'll distribute hundreds of magazines, music CDs and tracts-- all culminating in a Christmas dinner and program for those we regularly minister to.

No, in Japan they don't have a Western-style Christmas season, but people are still aware of the season-- and many even are somewhat aware of the reason for the season-- celebrating Christ's birth-- even though the commercial 'buy, buy, buy!' spirit is what is promoted everywhere.

Part of the emphasis on shopping is because most employees in Japan get a year-end bonus in December-- Also businesses and government departments nearly all have year-end parties for their workers-- but the biggest reason Christmas has been so commercialized, sadly, is the influence of the West.

The good news is that this season is still a wonderful opportunity to share the Good News. Just as it was in India and China where I spent eight Christmas seasons. These are places where it can be sometimes difficult to approach people directly most of the year. But Christmas is a time when people will readily receive a printed or personal 'Christmas message of God's love'.

Christmas brings new hope and courage, as through the darkness, the Christmas star shines its promise of God's unfailing love.—David Brandt Berg

The Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.Luke 1:78–79

Follow this link to an article about a recent film by Christian Carion, Joyeux Noël (2005), which retells the story of a well-documented event that occurred on a battlefield in France on Christmas Eve, 1914:

[above photo: singing at a local center, Christmas 2006]